It’s Time for the Left to Cool Down the Hate

A police officer mans a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot this morning at a baseball field in Virginia.

The alleged shooter has been identified James T. Hodgkinson. He’s a 66 year old man who, according to his social media profiles, is definitely on the political left and has advocated violence against President Donald Trump and his supporters:

Rep. Scalise was a close Trump ally who is outspoken in support of the President’s policies.

It seems clear, at this point, that the shooter was motivated by politics. As I write this, President Trump just announced that Hodgkinson has died.

The various political factions blaming one another for coarsening political debate, and even inspiring acts of violence, is a common thing. It’s a very shallow sort of “gotcha” tactic. It’s not fair to indict broad political movements based on the actions of a few fringe people.

But this instance feels different. The left has, increasingly, engaged in and condoned violence directed at Republicans and/or Trump supporters.

Right-of-center speakers are increasingly unwelcome on a number of American campuses. Left wing student groups have repeatedly engaged in violence and vandalism to disrupt those events. At Middlebury College in March students upset over a speech by a right-of-center economist injured one of the presenters amid disruptive protests.

Trump’s election was met with days of violent rioting. His inauguration saw more violence in the streets of Washington DC and elsewhere.

Black-clad activists, describing themselves as anti-fascists, routinely descend on pro-Trump rallies to fight and disrupt.

Environmental zealots routinely engage in violence to advance their agenda, as we saw for months here in North Dakota during the #NoDAPL protests.

Meanwhile left wing politicians and commentators refer to President Trump and his supporters as traitors. Fascists. Totalitarians. Nazis. Even in the wake of this ugly event, prominent progressives have taken to social media to suggest that maybe Scalise and Republicans had it coming.

It’s a shoddy political tactic to blame free speech for political violence. I’m not in favor of a heckler’s veto. I am not in favor of watering down any sort of speech because it might result in someone being inspired to violence. That road leads to places we don’t want to go.

But factions of the American left have literally been engaged in violence against President Trump and his supporters. They’re justifying that violence by casting Trump and his supporters as evil.

That’s a different matter entirely.

It’s one thing to disagree with Trump and his policies. It’s fine even to hate President Trump and his political agenda. But it would behoove us all to stop from crossing this line where we dehumanize the opposition.  Where we cast them as such total villains that violence against them seems justified.

That goes for the left and the right.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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